TORONTO, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- A Canadian retail association in Ontario mounted a campaign Thursday asking smokers to stop buying contraband tobacco and buy legitimate brands.
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association said in a release it had paid for 36 billboards throughout Toronto to remind smokers of the heavy fines they could face for buying untaxed cigarettes.
The vast majority of the contraband cigarettes are sold through Indian reservations in Eastern Ontario that straddle the New York state border and other reservations further west along the Canada-U.S. border.
While fully taxed name brand cartons of 200 cigarettes sell for as much as $90 in stores, the same number of cigarettes can cost as little as $10 from a reservation.
The association also echoed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police warning that fines for possession of contraband tobacco fines are steep – as much as $2,500 for 200 cigarettes.
Additionally, despite their various media campaigns, the provincial and federal governments are losing tens of millions of dollars in taxes to the growing black market, various media reports have said in recent months.
The retail association has about 7,500 members in Ontario, and said the number is shrinking.
"Over the past several years, over 1,000 convenience stores have gone out of business, in large part due to the effects of the illegal contraband market on these law-abiding retailers," the release said.